Introduction to Cryptic clues
Cryptic crossword clues are normally in three parts. A straight clue, the answer hidden somehow and words that indicate how it is hidden. These are made into a sentence, not necessarily in that order, that sort of makes sense literally but usually the wrong sense. The best way to solve a cryptic clue is to see if you can identify the straight clue.
You can then start looking at synonyms for that clue and suddenly, when it is correct, the cryptic clue will make total sense.
The beauty of cryptic crossword clues is that you know when you have the correct answer, not like a normal crossword.
Anagram cryptic clues (the most common)
The solution is hidden as an anagram of the answer. Words to indicate this are change, mixed, unfortunately, etc.
Open the voter changes (5)
The straight clue is open, the cryptic clue is voter: indicator is changes.
So the answer is an anagram of voter = overt.
Hidden word cryptic clues
The answer is hidden within the cryptic clue. Indicators are e.g. in, some, a bit, containing etc.
Not repeated in the initiation ceremony (4)
Straight clue is not repeated, cryptic clue initiation ceremony, and the indicator in.
The answer = once.
Hidden words backwards
The answer is hidden – backwards - within the cryptic clue. Indicators are e.g. returns with, back, up (for a down clue), etc.
Not reversed to make weight (3)
Straight clue is weight, cryptic clue not, and the indicator reversed.
The answer = ton (not reversed).
(*This is an exception as there is no cryptic clue or indicator)
This makes use of the fact a lot of words have more than one meaning. The two meanings are used in a sentence.
Access to a confession (9)
The answer is a word that means both access and confession = admission
Sounds like (homonyms)
This type of clue uses words that sound the same but are spelled differently. Indicators: sounds like, we hear, etc.
A bit of quiet, we hear (5)
Straight clue is a bit. The answer sounds like (we hear) a word that means quiet.
Answer: piece (sounds like peace)
Anagrams with letters added or deleted
Sometimes an answer is anagram of a word or words with an extra letter to add or delete. Indictors: with, and etc. Deleted
letters are indicted by less, without etc.
Here are some of the ways these letters are represented:
Student or learner = L; one = i; ring, zero, nothing, love = o; second class or Bravo = b; echo = e (any of the call sign alphabet);
First Greek = a; second Greek = b; First of May = m; End of May = y; middle of May = a; Wednesday = w etc; bone = T; bend = s.
Gets a or gets the, could mean to add the letter a or the word the.
Anagrams with more than one letter removed or added
Sometimes the answer is an anagram of a word or words with extra letters to add or delete. Indictors for additions are with,
and, etc. Deleted letters are indicted by less, without etc.
These are represented by some of the following:
sailor = ab; ship or on board = ss; degree or academian = ba or ma; engineer = re; dancer or artist = ra; party = do; journalist or
editor = ed; mother = ma; father = pa; horse = gg; alien = ET; street = st; road = rd; record = lp; company = co; at home = in; in
charge = ic; first class =ai; little thanks = ta; little credit = cr; attorney = da; doctor = dr (or mo or mb); alternative = or.
Gets an could mean add the word an. Is in could mean put the word is in the answer.
Anagrams with whole words removed
Sometimes answer is an anagram of a word or words, with whole words to add to or delete. Indictors for additions are with,
and etc. Deleted letters are indicted by less, without, leave or left, abandoned etc.
The lad left Hatfield to become a burglar (5)
If you removed the letters lad from Hatfield, you are left with an anagram of the answer = thief.
Chemical symbols, Musical terms, Roman numerals, money
These are a representation of a letter or letters.
Chemical symbols: gold = au or or; silver = a; carbon = c; copper = cu; iron = Fe.
Musical terms: quietly = p; very quietly = pp; loud = f; very loud= ff.
Roman numerals: 100 = C; 500 = D; ten = X (X is also a kiss); five = V; six = VI etc.
Money: Old Bob or Bob = s (shilling); penny = d or p; pound = L; cent = c; dollar = s.
Directions, spelling, numerals, foreign words
These are a representation of a letter or letters
Directions: north = n; south = s etc; quarter = N, S, E, W or SW, SE etc.
Spelling: you = u; why = y; seas = cc; ease = ee; Dee = d; Ell = l; pea = p etc.
Numerals: ten = io; one = i or a.
Foreign words: of French = de; the French = le la or les; the Spanish = el; the Italian = il.
Why you seize a prickly plant has me spellbound (5)
This is spelling out the answer for you: y(why) u(you) cc(seize) a = yucca.
In these clues the answer is spelled out in a series of letters, as per anagram - plus or minus letters.
French friend to go for Spanish friend (5)
French friend = ami + go = amigo (Spanish friend)
US State abbreviations
The abbreviations of US states are used as parts of words, e.g. California = ca; Virginia = va; Georgia = ga etc.
Note: If you see the word “state” it could mean the answer is a state in USA.
e.g. State I had returned ring (5)
The straight clue is State. The cryptic clue is: I + dah (had returned) + o (ring) = Idaho.
Word around another words or word inside another word
Some words are made up of one word around another. Indicators can be: Look for words like around, about, comes into etc.
One comes into a pier to be a colonist (7)
Pioneer is the word pier around the word one = pi-one-er.
Solve straight clue first
You will find some clues that need part of it solved like a normal crossword first and then that answer is used along with other
letters or words to solve it. You will recognise them as that part looks like a normal clue.
Came down and hurried around to court (7)
The straight clue here is came down. The cryptic clue is two straight clues first. i.e. you need a word that means hurried and put it “around” a word that means court. In this case hurried = sped; and court = woo. Answer: swooped.
Every alternate letter
In this case the answer is hidden in every odd or even letter. Indicators are oddly, every second, alternately etc.
Two hail Rolf every second spin (5)
Every second letter of Two hail Rolf is w-h-i-r-l. Answer: whirl = spin (the straight clue).
Same word with different adverbs
With some words, if you add up or down to them, the meaning is totally different. e.g. The word “dress”. You can dress up or
So using this in a cryptic clue would look like this: It is up for being fancy and down for a telling off (5)
Same goes for in and out e.g. set in or set out.
Overlapping two synonyms
In this case the answer can be read two ways. e.g. goatskin can be read as goat skin or goat’s kin.
The straight clue would describe the first version of this and the cryptic clue would be describing the second version.
Another is kingship = king ship or king’s hip.
Most quick to run away from trial (8)
Most quick = fleetest, which can also be read as flee test (run away from trial).
Common sayings with a new slant on meaning
Take a saying like “under one's hat” and give it a new slant, along with its normal meaning.
You will usually find a question mark at the end, which is an indicator.
Where one’s capital is kept in secret? (5,4,3) = under one’s hat.
False hopes. About dessert on an aeroplane? (3,2,3,3) = pie in the sky.
The straight clue has the answer
This is a cryptic clue that has only a straight clue but the answer spelled out in it.
Indicators: initially, first of all, for starters, as beginners or last of all .e.g.
The heart’s regular oscillating beat initially (5)
If you take the first letter of each of the words (initials) you spell T-H-R-O-B, which is the answer.
Play on words
This is like a new slant on meaning but without idioms
Its use can be seen on reflection (6) = mirror
How one learns to walk gradually? (4,2,4) = step by step
A baby bird (5)
This is obvious once you stress the word baby. i.e. What bird do you associate with babies? Answer = stork.
Two clues with … between
Occasionally you see two clues in a row where the first one ends in … then the second starts …
Are these clues related? No, not usually. The just seem to go together and we are trying to trick you into thinking they are related.
But - sometimes they are! That is cryptic clues for you.
The Cockney factor
The way that Cockneys or Eastenders talk with their dropped Hs and f for “th' is used in cryptic clues.
The indicators are: Cockney, Eastenders.
Guarantee the last Cockney horse in the row (7)
The straight clue is guarantee. The cryptic clue: the last Cockney horse in the row, would be the end ‘orse.
Release the Cockney trio (4)
Straight clue is release. Cryptic clue is the Cockney trio (three). Answer: free.
Surnames or Christian names of famous people or characters are used in clues. The clue has one half of the name and you
figure out the other half as part of the answer. e.g Hope = Bob (or vice versa); Diarist Murray Spencer means Anne as in Anne
Murray and Frank as in Frank Spencer. So the answer is Anne Frank.
Star signs, sporting terms
Star Signs: If you see the word sign, it could mean a star sign is part of the answer.
Blanchett carries sign to determine accuracy (9)
Blanchett = Cate; sign = libra. Cate carrying sign = Ca-libra-te.
Sporting Terms: Cricket has a lot of unusual terms which are used in clues, especially two-synonym clues. Words like over, slips, etc
Letters removed from end or middle of words
Some clues need the middle or ends of words removed to get part of the answer. Indicators are: first, head etc.
If the beginning of a word is needed. e.g. College head = “c” ( but it could also be “dean”).
Note: First man could be an “m” or it could be “Adam”.
First letter could be “L” or it could be “a”.
Last or final for the end of a word e.g. Last word could be “d” or “amen”.
The word almost means a word with the last letter dropped.
Middle, endless or heart for the part of the word minus the ends. e.g. The heart of matter = “atte”.
Yes – sometimes a straight clue will look like a cryptic clue.
Stranger aversion (10)
This looks like an anagram clue because of the word “strange” but it is not. The answer is xenophobia.
Little thanks = ta, little credit = cr, Attorney = da, doctor = dr or mo or mb, alternative = or.
Method to go about solving cryptic puzzles
1. Read through all the clues. Sometimes you will see an obvious answer, which will then give you a starting point in the puzzle.
2. If you cannot figure out a clue, you may not be reading it correctly. Remember that the literal sense of the clue is usually not
what is meant. You need to reread the clue and see what else it could be telling you.
3. Remember that the compiler is trying to trick you into thinking the wrong thing.
4. Some compilers have their own peculiarities, which you need to discover.
5. If you strike a quotation and are not a literary genius, search what is quoted on the internet and you will usually get the answer.
There. Your question fails on the grounds detailed above. My original comments stand, and I had hoped you'd be man enough to consider it.